Arsenal v Chelsea: EFL Cup Semi-Final Second Leg Match Preview
Arsenal host Chelsea in their EFL CUP semi-final second leg tie at the Emirates Stadium tonight (8.00pm kick-off UK time).
The winner tonight will face Manchester City in the Final on Sunday 25th February at Wembley Stadium.
The teams drew 0-0 in the first leg a fortnight ago at Stamford Bridge.
It was a tight cagey affair, with the use of video assistant referees (VAR) providing most of the talking points of interest. The system will once again be in use tonight.
Referee Martin Atkinson sought confirmation on three contentious penalty decisions in the first leg, all of which were proved correct by the new technology.
Michael Oliver will hope that any referrals to VAR are equally clear-cut tonight.
Arsenal haven’t won this competition since beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in the Final at Wembley in 1993.
Whilst Arsene Wenger has yet to win this trophy, losing finals to Chelsea in 2007 and Birmingham City in 2011.
The Blues victory in 2007 over the Gunners was at the Millennium Stadium, winning the Final 2-1, in what was the fourth of five League Cup triumphs for the club.
The Alexis Sanchez transfer saga was finally resolved on Monday. The Chilean joining Manchester United in a straight swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian is cup-tied so won’t be able to make his Gunners debut tonight. He is likely to make his first appearance at the Liberty Stadium next Tuesday against Swansea City in the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger is hopeful that Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal will be involved tonight. Both face fitness tests.
Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck remain out.
Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) are out.
Andreas Christensen is available to play after a head injury forced him off at Brighton on Saturday.
“It’s an important game and we want to go to the final. We have an opportunity to do it at home against Chelsea. I think the two teams know each other very well. The first leg was very blocked, the second leg will certainly be more open, because at some stage, the teams will have to open up to try to win the game. It should be much more spectacular than the first one.
“You’re always cautious to say that because I think the two teams are very close to each other every time they meet and the form of the day can be a decider. The strength of the motivation on the day can be a decider as well. It has always been very tight, they are two good teams, who know each other very well now, so it’s very difficult, it’s very unpredictable.
“Honestly, I don’t see any favourite in that tie. If you look, as we just spoke about, in the last seven games it’s always very tight, so what you could say is that what comes out is no real favourite, but we are at home and we feel strong at home and so we want to take advantage of it.”
“After going from tenth place and then to win the league and reach the final of the FA Cup, this is a fantastic opportunity for me in a few years.
“For me and my players it is great if we can reach this target. We know we have to fight against Arsenal.
“If you are able to fight during the season for every trophy it gives satisfaction for your fans.
“When you play against Arsenal for sure you must be prepared to suffer without the ball.
“They like to bring many players in the box and find combinations. For this reason we must pay great attention. We have to be compact with the ball but at the same time dangerous when on the ball.
“Last season we saw two different games. The first one was a disaster, we lost 3-0. The second game at home we won 3-1.
“In this season the first game in the league ended 0-0 and 2-2 in the second game. We are showing to be at the same point, with the same value.
“There is not another game and we don’t have another possibility and we need to try to reach the final.”
Route to the semi-finals
Arsenal’s run to the final four run has consisted of narrow wins over EFL sides such as Doncaster Rovers (1-0) and Norwich City (2-1 after extra time), ahead of a 1-0 victory against West Ham United in the quarter-finals, with Danny Welbeck scoring the winner in the first half.
Chelsea have progressed to the final four courtesy of home wins at the expense of Nottingham Forest, Everton and Bournemouth. The Blues avoided being taken to extra-time by the Cherries in their quarter-final, with Alvaro Morata scoring in the 91st minute after Dan Gosling had equalised moments before.
Michael Oliver has been appointed as the referee, with Simon Bennett and Scott Ledger the assistant referees. Andre Marriner has been appointed the fourth official. Neil Swarbrick will be operating as the VAR, with Mick McDonough as his assistant.
Arsenal to win 2-1.